Saturday, January 2, 2010

How to care for Oscar Fish (Astronotus ocellatus)

About the Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus)

The Oscar is a very interesting fish to have. Being from the South American cichlid family, it is a beautiful fish, often with red, orange or yellow bright spots on an otherwise dark colored body and a solid and distinguishable shape with large eyes and mouth, with exception of the albino Oscar, which has been
largely bread for its white unusual look. This fish also demonstrates a very strong personality. Known for being an aggressive fish, it can have its mild side. Most of its aggression seems to have to do with its ferocious carnivorous appetite. The Oscar will almost anything that fits in its mouth and that considering how broadly he can open his mouth, that includes most other fish that are smaller than him.

Setting up a tank

Oscar start small but can become very large in a short amount of time. You should start with a minimum of a 30 gallon tank to ensure it will have room to grow for a while, but you
might end up needing more than that. The Oscar usually doesn't do well with company, unless they are similar fish. Because it can grow so fast, it tends to eat it's smaller companions as soon they can fit in its mouth. One of my Oscars would attempt to jump out of the tank to try to eat people's fingers when they pointed at him!!!
Oscars also eliminate a lot, so having a good filter is very important to keeping the tank healthy.

Feeding the Oscar

Because it's diet should be very high in protein, it does very well with freeze dried worms and special cichlid foods. Feeding it the typical live feeds you find in fish stores such as guppies, minnows and goldfish can prove deadly if not treated with care. Because the Oscar is also a fish, and since those feeder fish tend to carry large amounts of disease, the chances of contaminating your Oscar are very large. The only exception is when you are willing to create a tank for feeder fish you breed yourself. That way disease can be controlled and you can be sure you are feeding your Oscar healthy feeder fish. Otherwise, skip it.

Breeding Oscars

In ideal environments, with very large tanks, Oscars can breed relatively easily. They become mature sexually shortly after 1 year of age and can lay as many as 1000 eggs. Oscars are monomorphic, which means it's not possible to differentiate a male from a female by just looking at them, so having a few is the best way to try to get a pair. Oscars prefer to lay their eggs on a
flat surface, so having a piece of wood or rocks can be very helpful. If there is nothing in the tank for them to lay their eggs on, they will clear a patch of gravel/sand until the bottom of the tank is exposed and then they will lay their eggs there. The female becomes very aggressive around her eggs, so it's important that she has enough space to be territorial. The eggs normally take 3 days to hatch. If they are fertilised they should turn a light tan colour. If they stay white, they are not fertilised. Oscars will commonly eat those.

Final Thoughts

Oscars can be a very entertaining and exciting fish to have. They should be considered for homes with large spaces and for more experienced fish owners. They are not ideal for young children, but with a lifespan of 10 to 13 years, they are worth the investment on them and can bring joy for a long, long time.

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